An abundance of pileated woodpeckers

2019_08_07__Summer 2019_0239

For the past month, these Woody Woodpecker look-alikes have been regularly visiting the trees in our backyard. They’re not nesting here, but every day, morning, noon, and night, they fly in, help themselves to the woodpecker blocks and suet cakes, and provide us with entertainment. Just look at this pair. I’m no woodpecker expert, but I am guessing, from their behavior, that they are juvenile woodpeckers.

I’m not sure if they are playing, attacking each other, or maybe engaging in some kind of romantic ritual. Hopefully someone can explain it so we will all know.

2019_08_07__Summer 2019_03032019_08_07__Summer 2019_0286

When I watch them cavort from tree to tree, I’m reminded of my days as a middle-school teacher. There’s never a dull moment!

2019_08_07__Summer 2019_0167

Enjoy their antics as you watch this slide show. Some of their expressions are hilarious…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

That’s it for today’s backyard birding post. I hope you enjoyed your visit.

See you soon!
Trail Walker

Rainy days

Rain, rain, go away
Come again some other day.
Little Johnny wants to play.

Running through my head repeatedly, that rhyme, remembered from my childhood, couldn’t be more true to the way I feel about April…and now May! Little Johnny and Little Sally would like the rain to stop and the temperature to warm up so they can put on their shorts and sandals and go out to play. And Little Carolyn would like to get outside to take trail walks and play with her camera.

We have had so much rain recently that the ducks and geese have turned our swampy back yard into their personal swimming pool. Mowing the rapidly growing grass has been almost impossible, but the geese and ducks are loving it! Take a look!

First a pair of geese landed. Together they wandered through the wet grass.


And if it’s possible, the mallards are even happier than the geese. They wander through the grass, swim in the large puddles, and don’t mind the mud at all. I didn’t get any pictures of the actual swimming yet, but trust me, it really happens, and they love it. Every year this pair of mallards returns to our neighborhood, and we smile to see them. It’s almost as if they are coming back to their favorite vacation resort: plenty of water for swimming, green grass galore, and no lack of tasty food. We provide everything a duck would love. Is it any wonder they return year after year?

That’s it for this blog post.
Thanks for stopping by to catch up on the backyard news!
Trail Walker

Three of a kind

I’m always surprised when the pileated woodpecker appears at the backyard feeder. His visits haven’t been very regular since last fall when we had to cut down the tall tree he liked to land on when he flew in. After landing on the tall oak tree, he and his mate would often fly across our backyard and stop on the fruit trees in our neighbor’s yard, close enough for a really good photo opp. Unfortunately, our neighbors had to cut down both their apple and cherry trees a few years ago, which is probably why we see the pileated pair less often.  Some people refer to the pileated as the Woody Woodpecker bird because he looks just like the cartoon bird. He likes suet, as he is demonstrating here. He also likes the large (woodpecker-sized) seed blocks, and sometimes he will fly in and land on top of the hopper-feeder.

The pileated, a very large insect-eating bird, is native to North America and is described as “a mostly sedentary inhabitant of deciduous forests in eastern North America, the Great Lakes, the boreal forests of Canada, and parts of the Pacific coast.” Some of my blog readers may have seen them in their backyards. (If you have, please let us know in the comment section). The bird in today’s picture is a male, easily identified by the red mustache on his face.

That’s it for today’s post.
Hope to see you soon.
Trail Walker

A glance out the kitchen window

Cleaning up the kitchen after lunch, my eye was arrested by the sight of a lonely bluebird huddled on top of the nesting box in falling snow.2019_03_05__Backyard birding_0025
The temperature was 18 degrees, and I could only imagine that, despite his fluffed out feathers,  the little fellow was feeling a bit cold. Grabbing my camera, I snapped his picture, then soon discovered he wasn’t the only wind-blown bird in the backyard. At least one other bluebird, a downy woodpecker, and a robin were nearby. (Click to enlarge pictures.)

 

I’m looking forward to spring when sunshine and warm breezes will waft away the cold and snow. I have a feeling my feathered friends are just as eager for a change in the weather. How about you?

Thanks for visiting today. See you soon.
Trail Walker

 

Monday musings

2019_03_04__Backyard birding_0063
My calendar insists that today is March 4th. In sixteen short days, we will observe the spring equinox, the astronomical first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere; in other words, the first official day of spring! Here in Ohio, we will “spring forward” next weekend, turning our clocks an hour ahead for the beginning of DST or daylight saving time. Not that it really saves any time, and sometimes I wonder if I wouldn’t prefer leaving my clock on standard time all year round. Nevertheless, I will conform and save myself from the confusion of never arriving anywhere at the “right time.”

So there you have it; spring is almost upon us, but, oh, how I wish it felt (and looked) more like spring! That won’t happen here on the south shore of Lake Erie until sometime in April, if we’re lucky. But here’s some good news. The birds have begun their spring migration. And I saw undeniable proof this week: a redwinged blackbird appeared in my backyard. No, I didn’t capture his (or her) picture, but I saw it. Truly I did, and that made me smile. Maybe if I carve out time this week for a trail walk in the arboretum, I will discover some tiny snowdrops, another sure harbinger of spring. Meanwhile, a bevy of birds were active in my backyard today, and they were willing to pose for some photo opps. Here are a few that I captured through my kitchen window: First, the blue jays:

Here’s another junco, like the one at the top of the post. They don’t linger once spring arrives, so they will soon be on their way to their summer home. For that reason, they are sometimes called snowbirds.
2019_03_04__Backyard birding_0062
A cardinal and an American robin also made a visit. All of these birds, even the robin, live year round in our neighborhood. I’m not sure how  robins got the reputation for being one of the first signs of spring because they don’t deserve it. We see them all year round, although it is true that we see more in warmer weather. (Although I’ve never actually counted, so that could be inaccurate.)

2019_03_04__Backyard birding_00562019_03_04__Backyard birding_0054

My favorite little birds have been hanging around recently. Despite their reputation as summer birds, they also appear in the winter. I was shocked the first time I saw a bluebird in the middle of winter. But here they are. (Click to enlarge).

The two on the right are males. I’m not positive about the one on the left with the more subdued color, but I think it is a male too. I do know they enjoy perching on top of the “rabbit” that watches over the garden.
And, as always, the “not-a-birds” have been busy scampering around the yard and up and down the trees, “stealing” food from the feeders. They can’t fly, but their agility is amazing as they climb the pole to get to the hopper feeder.

2019_03_04__Backyard birding_00052019_03_04__Backyard birding_0001

That’s it for today’s bird count. You can be sure I will keep my eye out for that redwinged blackbird. Maybe I will hear him before I see him. That’s often the way it is with the redwings. Every spring, their loud, distinctive call announces their arrival. Come back soon to see what I find in the backyard or along the trail.

Thanks for stopping by today. I always enjoy your visits!
Trail Walker

Backyard bird gallery

2019_02_14__Backyard birding_0033
Male Eastern bluebird
2019_02_14__Backyard birding_0077
Red-breasted nuthatch

Weatherwise, February is usually a dreary month along the south shore of Lake Erie, but this year Valentine’s week brought a few birds to the backyard buffet that I hadn’t seen in a long while, most notably the beautiful male bluebird and the red-breasted nuthatch pictured above. To be honest, the birds I have been seeing most often when I look out my kitchen window are the ever-present pesky starlings. Starlings in small numbers are interesting birds with pretty feathers, but starlings never appear in small numbers. They invade! For that reason, I don’t usually take their picture more than once in a while when the backyard bird pickings are slim.

But this has been a good week, one that culminated on Friday with the appearance of a female bluebird and another appearance of a red-breasted nuthatch. The white-breasted nuthatch is a regular visitor, but the red-breasted variety is truly a rarity in our neighborhood. I’ve read that an irruption, or invasion, of red-breasted nuthatches is possibly due to a lack of spruce seeds farther north in the bird’s typical winter range. I’ve only seen a few so far this year, not nearly enough to count as an irruption, but when they appear in my backyard, I consider it to be an exciting event. Here are several that I have seen this week:

And here is another picture of the male bluebird as well as his mate, who showed up today. Contrary to what many people believe, some bluebirds do winter in Northeast Ohio, but that is unusual enough to create some excitement.

Here is a little gallery of the backyard birds I have seen this week. Click to enlarge…

And finally, my husband’s favorite, the smallest woodpecker, a downy.
2019_02_13__Backyard birding_0009
That’s the backyard bird gallery for this week. As the old-fashioned expression goes, I’m pleased as punch to be able to include a couple of reasonably rare birds among the current collection.

Thanks for visiting the backyard buffet with me.
See you soon to find out what next week will bring my way!
Trail Walker

Confused by the weather

2019_02_12__Backyard birding_0009
Since the beginning of the year, our weather has been unsettled, or maybe I should say unsettling. We’ve had snow, extreme cold, and now rain. Glancing out the kitchen window this morning, I noticed an empty hopper feeder. Slipping on my jacket and boots, I sloshed out and refilled the feeder. A short while later, I spotted this little critter on the tree stump enjoying a feast.

2019_02_12__Backyard birding_00222019_02_12__Backyard birding_0005

As you can see, the squirrel is not on the hopper feeder, but on a nearby tree stump. It makes no difference to him, just as long as someone treks out to refill the food supply, and I imagine he is pleased to find his snack on the stump, instead of in the puddles that surround it.

Two weeks ago, the stump was covered with snow and the backyard looked like this.

Snowy Sunday

When Bob carried out the bucket of birdseed to refill the feeders, he had to sweep off the top of the stump before scattering the birdseed and pouring seed in the feeders. That was on January 27th.
APC_0949

For a few days, a joyful crowd of sledders, had a grand time on the hill in Chagrin River Park (See my recent post “When the Snow Finally Fell”). Unfortunately, a few days later, during the first week of February, our temperatures topped out in the sixties, with 63 degrees on February 4th, and 61 degrees on February 7th. The snow melted, and the sledders vacated the now-barren sledding hill in the Park. Then, on February 9th, when the high temperature once again plummeted to 21 degrees, our brief taste of spring ended; the rains came; and the river almost reached flood stage, prompting warning calls from the authorities who keep a watch on such things.

Currently we are in a holding pattern. I can hear cars splashing through the puddles as they drive past our house, and I have no incentive whatsoever to take my camera to the park or the Arboretum for a trail walk. Who knows when spring will actually put in a real appearance. After all, it is still February. In Cleveland, we don’t hold out much hope for sunshine and flowers until at least April…or maybe sometime in May???

Cross your fingers fellow trail walkers.
And don’t put away your boots yet!
~Trail Walker

Too cold for trailwalking

2019_01_28__backyardbirding_0008

As I warned in my last post, right after spotting the red-bellied woodpecker above, our temperatures plummeted and for the past several days have hovered around zero (F). Yesterday the high temp here along the south shore of Lake Erie peaked at zero degrees Fahrenheit and went down from there. The “feels like” temp, given the wind chill, was many degrees lower. It was, as I had expected, painfully below my acceptable trail walking minimum of 23 degrees, so I resorted to backyard birding…through my kitchen window. Here are a few of the birds I saw this morning after we trudged out to refresh the feeders.

2019_01_30__backyardbirding_0019
Starlings arrive in large groups
2019_01_30__backyardbirding_0010
They are pesky, but, taken individually, can be cute.
2019_01_30__backyardbirding_0023
Sometimes they search under the feeders.
2019_01_31__backyardbirding_0027
A solitary tufted titmouse

That’s all the backyard birding I have time for right now. Maybe I can capture a few more later, but I wouldn’t blame them if they all found a warm spot to huddle together out of the wind.

Thanks for visiting. Hopefully I will soon be back on the trail. Our temperature is supposed to moderate in a day or two. I’m thankful for that prediction because I have had enough of this worrisome sub-zero stuff. I’m fully aware that, while I am warm and cozy, as I watch the birds through my kitchen window, many others aren’t so fortunate. Some have to search out shelters for protection. They need our prayers when the weather conditions become treacherous, something that seems to happen with increasing frequency in recent months, or maybe I should say years.

Stay safe, fellow bloggers, and give thanks for your safety.
Trail Walker

Is it vacant now? A bluebird catastrophe

2018_10_30__untitled shoot_0104

A story I didn’t have the heart to tell until now.

Mr. Bluebird has just peeked into the nesting box. Perched on top, Mrs. B. is wondering if the box is available. “Have the sparrows left?” she queries. “Can we move in?” (That’s my guess at their conversation based on their actions and the expressions on their tiny faces.)

 

A few months earlier, when summer was at its peak, Mrs. B, with a little help from her mate, had diligently built a nest in this very same box. When the nest was ready, the time had come. She laid three tiny eggs in her carefully constructed nest, and both parents went to work keeping watch over their brood. Day after day, she tended the nest, making occasional quick trips outside to pick up more twigs and a grub or two, carrying them back to the nest in her beak. Sometimes Mr. Bluebird would bring her a grub or a worm, although he mostly patrolled the neighborhood, doing his best to keep the house sparrows and blue jays away from the little family.

2018_06_08__Holden Arboretum_00672018_06_14__Backyard birding_0070

Sadly, his best wasn’t good enough. One morning, when Momma and Poppa were both briefly out of the nest, an intruder got inside. How do I know that? I know because I had been keeping a close eye on the nest from my nearby kitchen window. Seeing the pair of beautiful blue birds, tending the nest so carefully, brought me great joy.

I checked on them every time I passed by the window, and then, one morning, tragedy struck. I glanced out the window and was horrified to see a house sparrow sitting on top of the nesting box, and the bluebirds were nowhere to be seen. I checked the nest often for the next few days. Occasionally I spotted Mr. Bluebird, perched on a nearby branch or on one of the feeders, his eyes scanning the neighborhood, but the momma was nowhere in sight. The house sparrows were around though, entering and leaving the nesting box they had quickly claimed as their own.

2018_06_15__Backyard birding_00682018_06_15__Backyard birding_0059

Finally, after a few days, we opened the box and discovered three tiny eggs, with a hole pecked in each one. We sadly cleaned out the box, hoping an empty box would discourage the sparrows. It did, but except for a very rare visit to the neighborhood, the bluebirds were gone. They didn’t return to the nest.

Then one day, months later, at the end of October, I was excited to see a bluebird, not just one, but a pair of bluebirds, in the backyard. I began to keep a close eye on the nest, as I had months earlier, and eventually, as I watched, Mr. Bluebird entered the nest, not once, but several times. And one of those times, a house sparrow flew up and tried to enter the nesting box when the bluebird was already inside. With a flurry of feathers and much beating of wings, the brave bluebird repelled the invader, as I stood at the window and cheered.

 

2018_11_07__untitled shoot_0024
Mr. Bluebird defending the nest!

What will happen next? I don’t know. I’m rooting for Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird, but the sparrows are persistent. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

Please keep your fingers crossed too.
I’ll let you know what happens!
Trail Walker

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: